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THE DYNAMIC AND DENIAL OF GOODNESS
From THE COURT OF CULTURE
to THE COMPANY OF CHRIST
MOSES AND THE OVERFLOW OF DIVINE GOODNESS
Moses understood it, for God made him understand.
The people had just let him down. He had sacrificed his career as a cultivated, elevated prince in Egypt, for the concern for his Jewish brothers, racial identities with himself, slaves. Ill-advisedly his passion has passed prudent and workable bounds. Forty years later, he was called by God to do something far better with the divine power back of it, to deliver his people.
Moses insisted that he be persuaded that the divine voice, and the divine form, appearing in a burning bush which despite the fire in it, was not consumed, should show power to perform, before he would act in the name of this, the living God, on His behalf for the people. God demonstrated this sself-same divine power to ears and eyes willing to see and to hear, for such were those of Moses. In this, they were unlike those of Israel in the day of Christ, as He Himself attested of them as a nation (Matthew 13:14-16). Yet like the apostles, to whom Christ then spoke, Moses heard, watched and was persuaded.
Therefore he acted, as faith always does in the end.
The name concerned him. By what name would he go to confront Pharaoh in order to deliver his people from slavery ? What was to be the distinctive name by which God would be known in a living, experimental, national and definitive fashion for this exercise, and indeed, in terms of reality, public, continual and to proceed as long as the days of Abraham's promise, which is without end in the seed promised, the Messiah. What then was to be the name of deliverance, intervention, redeeming thrust ?
It was this (Exodus 3:13-14): I AM! This had not been His signature name, or the covenantal criterion, as now it must be. Almighty always, and with such a name, now He wanted the everlasting, supra-temporal, self-sufficient, time-embracing, eternity-expressing name of a Being without dependency on anything, over all, beyond all, concerned for all and willing to find some. That is just what Christ conveyed as we read in John 8:58. It is disjoined from mere nature and the natural, with its passing sequence: Before Abraham was, I am, said Christ, definitively expressing in direct, categorical and historical format, that He was Jehovah.
That 'some' included the nation of Israel. God was committed to them.
When Moses therefore, after many prevarications on the part of a Pharaoh confronted by more than human might, came to act, power flowed freely. Delaying tactics exhibited by an Egyptian Ruler whose extravaganzas of equivocation make a history book of their own, as the various gods of Egypt thrashed by the Lord in His plagues, were exposed to scorn, and Moses uninhibited by the entire Egyptian army, chariots and all, led out a slave people from that vast nation which had enslaved them.
Indeed, it was the imperial zenith of the world of that time, one might have thought the case concluded. It was, but when the supernatural God of creation deals with nature, as in the flood, as in fulfilling all of His promises, there is no ability to resist. It was as in the resurrection. It was foretold by a millenium, Christ had spoken of it freely (e.g. Matthew 16-17), there was declared fear and concern, a guard was set, a tomb with a boulder over it was assigned; but none could produce the body, and only the Christians knew where it was.
Secret plans known a day beforehand may be crucial and one nation might thus overcome another by such knowledge, as might be gained in breaking a code. But in this case, there was no code, it was as clear as day in Psalm 16, Psalm 2, and there was the most potent exposure of the fact of the coming resurrection as in John 2; but no one COULD stop it. It was so simple: produce the body and show your power is more than that of the God of the Bible.
With maximum motivation, neither the priestly party nor Pilate could do so; and the disciples were changed by the empirical facts so closely conveyed, as seen in John 20.
So in the Exodus, this time not from death to life, but from slavery in search of the promised land, so much earlier, there was an historical drama which served also as a symbolic trip beforehand. This one was on the part of the nation; just as the resurrection was despite the nation, as God, the only Lamb who could expatriate sin's guilt, did it once for all in Himself (cf. Hosea 13:14, Hebrews 9-10). The nation baulked, but the Lord walked. They refused at first to enter the promised land, and lost forty years in the wilderness, till almost all had died. A new generation went in, surrounded once more by the power of God.
As to the nation, then, in their Exodus trip, they hesitated; but in Christ far more searching journey, neither did He hesitate nor halt: He expiated. There was no waiting there.
Indeed, the parallel is intense both in meaning and in an edifying phase of contrast. Israel the nation failed to enter the promised land when God showed it to them, invited them to it, and brought them to its very threshold, through many miracles and much labour of heart, so that they might freely enter. 40 years was the interval to wait, and except for those who in a mini-minority were willing to enter, those particular people in their masses, did not enter in at all. Their children did, but they did not!
So when the nation, at their historical crux, the historical season that Daniel predicted for the Messiah (cf. Daniel 9:23ff.*1), the neap tide of opportunity, had a vast new open way to glory, what happened ? Again failing, they did not put their faith in Jesus Christ, despite His maxi-fulfilment of all prophecies concerning His saving advent, Again, as a result of this failure, there was an interval for the nation. It was not this time one of 40 years' duration.
In this sublime and immortal instance of opportunity ("the time of your visitation" as Christ called it - Luke 19:42ff.), the interval so far has been some 1977 years, an increase of result, at the spiritual level for the nation, of nearly 50 times!
Thus who rejected Him throughout the entry period of their whole lives, in this case, did not enter in at all. The nation as a bloc, did not enter for near to 2000 years, into the spiritual promised land, the antitype of the land itself, into the glory of knowing God as Jeremiah had told them to ensure they should do, in Jeremiah 9:23-24.
"Thus says the Lord:
'Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
Let not the mighty man glory in his might,
Nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
But let him who glories glory in this,
That he understands and knows Me,
That I am the Lord,
exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,' says the Lord."
The nation has been dispersed as Leviticus 26 predicted for successive waves of rebellion, and mocked, made to look foolish before 'a foolish nation', as those without wisdom, but proficient in carnal power, trod on them, crushed them, slew them and despised them. Such was the prediction of Deuteronomy 32. It is not the end for the nation, in terms of the spiritual promised land, the antitype for truth, the criterion for salvation, the nestling place in the Lord. Its time does come as in Romans 11*2.
Looking back, then, what is to be learned of the goodness of God in this Exodus instance ?
God had shown
1) His pity.
2) His concern.
3) His practical interest .
4) His indefectible power.
5) His resolute resolutions of
6) His deliverances in scope
and dimension beyond anything that could have been imagined,
Was this not enough to satisfy any empirically minded people, and to restore to faith a nation in the midst of dissolution, to the kinder life of resolution on the regality of God in their lives!
Quite apparently, it was not, as Hebrews and history alike make clear (Hebrews 3:16-4:10). Those who perished in the wilderness were almost the entirety of a nation, and few were those excepted. Faith was not mixed, nor united with their hearing of the testimony of evident truth, says Hebrews. That is not profitable in the spiritual domain. It is defunct.
That was the situation for the major corpus of the people. When Christ came, similarly, though multiplied thousands believed, despite this remnant, the entire nation was doomed by disbelief, its leadership a shambles, its ceremonial substitute for faith no less than a fraud, one outrageously culminating in killing the King whom ostensibly they served.
In this, there is a parallel, that speaks! Indeed, the people threatened to stone Moses, when they feared and failed to enter the Promised Land (Number 14:10). At the brink of glory (in faith proceeding where God sends, and here entering an entire category of blessing), they not only failed, but thought of killing the leader and returning to Egypt, This has been the procedure; it was so when Christ came, when they did more than THINK of killing the Commander; and it has been the step taken with those who have stood for Christ while many have sought to avoid and evade Christ's call, even in some bodies called churches! And so the fires of Smithfield and the incredible brutality of judicial murder and slowly burning fires to incinerate living human flesh, drama of the Romanist Inquisition, proceeded.
Faith becomes an incubus, life a burden through lack of faith. Glorious opportunity and scope for glory is painstakingly sacrificed. Faith is in recess, life in rebellion, formality acts as fraud.
Not so surprising therefore was Christ's parable of the rich man and the beggar, Lazarus, neglected in his earthly life, but secure in the haven of heaven at last (Luke 16:19ff.). Give me water! send Lazarus to bring it! cries the lost rich man. There was however no way for this to happen, for there was a gulf between the two. Christ then made his famous remark, that even if one were to rise from the dead, they would not believe.
Just as faith without works is dead, since faith is a living and acting sort of thing, as is the nature of all life, so form without function is defunct, and testimony without truth is mere tedium.
This observation made by Christ, then, was in response to the rich man, in hell, asking for someone to be sent to his brothers still living on this earth; but it had a subtler impact.
Christ DID rise from the dead
No one could do ANYTHING to stop the resurrection; but the Lord who had foretold that after just three days, He would rise from the dead, did as always, precisely what He had said. Because they COULD do nothing, this is what they did. Because the Lord can do ANYTHING, what was required, raising the dead body of the Saviour to life, He did.
Every simple practical force was there to prevent this fulfilment; but it was still fulfilled.
Could they not guard the body (they tried) ? could they not encircle the area (they provided soldiers and a boulder and seal) ? could they not note the prediction from a millenium before that He would rise bodily (Psalm 16) ? Would they not listen to Christ's deliberate prediction (Matthew 16-17) ? Were they strategically exempt or merely obfuscated by guilt ? Did they not realise that He answered every test, physical or mental, and so take steps ? Or did they rather do something, while God did all!
Were they to become asinine, incompetent and paralysed all at once ? Could they not do better than have a story (Matthew 28) to 'explain' it all, saying that the disciples had stolen the body while the guard slept ? for how could they know, if they slept!
But if they did not know, and were paralysed with fright as the tomb was opened by supernatural means, as dead men in fear and horror, amazement and dazed into delirium by life itself at work in the midst of death, with precise power and glorious order: then indeed you have the only natural explanation. The body went and they knew it, not as they slept, but as they were struck and dumbfounded with the divine power and presence, unable and bewildered by such supernatural almightiness. 'Sleep' was a cover up, inept for those not executed for incompetence, and irrelevant as testimony, except for this: that obviously it was a false testimony, self-contradictory in itself, as the outset. Sleep does not witness.
Just as Israel in the day of Christ, not all, but the nation as such, made of themselves an unbelieving morass deserving (and soon to obtain - A.D. 70) massive judgment, so in the day of Moses, for wilfully refusing to enter the promised land, after myriads of miracles in multiple dimensions, without one failure, they did not believe. Thus the 40 year penalty, in the wilderness, was what they obtained, and this was their reward for reneging; just as later, it was to be something close to 2000 years, of exclusion as a NATION. In that case, it was the apostles and the converts, who were the exceptions; just as earlier, it was Moses and some others, in the day of the Exodus, when their journey was complete, the Promised Land at hand, as later Christ was.
In the day of Christ's resurrection, and what followed, there was a larger 'remnant', as the apostles and disciples were joined by those thousands of other believers, whom their preaching was used to gain! The remnant was large, but a remnant still; for the nation was spiritually ill.
The history of refusal had been long.
In ancient Israel, the refusal of the people to enter the land at their very feet, into which they had already sent spies who had returned intact, was not alone as an exhibit of their approach to faith ...
Did the people not rebel on the very excursion out of Egypt, crying in terms of their missing pleasures, at the onset of the Pharaoh's army, threatening to close them in to the sea. Only the opening of it could deliver them; and it opened. How many MORE times, after the 10 plagues, did they need to be reassured!
Christ, then, did indeed put this sort of spirit well, when He indicated, in telling the parable of the rich man and the beggar Lazarus, that though one were to rise from the dead, it would not suffice to convince that generation! It is the perennial character of disfaith, of settled, pathological, animated animus against the truth, which so acts in any Age.
In the earlier time, the epoch of Moses, the people were surrounded by miracles that made a slave people overthrow the reins of the driver and his vast powers, and yet they were complaining, grumbling, mumbling, murmuring, secretly dismayed and then openly vocal in their lagging and laxities.
Moses, then, when he came down from the mount of prayer and revelation, to find the people wild in false religious exercises, attributing power to idols, made and crafted in vicious parallel to a Egyptian god, who they said, brought them out of Egypt, reached into a situation fast becoming chronic.
Harassed repeatedly, he was appalled by this, which could be the summary outcome of their great adventure.
Had it then all come to nought ? after so much sacrificed, endured, and shown supernaturally by the deadly dynamic and saving grace of the Lord!
You read of this personal situation for Moses in Exodus 33.
It is important for us, for in this we can see what is a highly significant period for the expression of the GOODNESS of the Lord. We must indeed first look at something in Exodus 31. Moses asks the Lord to look upon him, as he sought to lead the people. They have, he admitted, committed a "great sin".
Let us consider it further. The golden calf which they had made while for a few days Moses was communing and being instructed in epochal matters for the nation and the world, held, expressed and exhibited most publicly, various evils. Clear at once was the fact that it represented an Egyptian god, one of those utterly debunked as the Lord turned, in the 10 plagues, as first one of them and then another was scorned and sent back into the fabled imagination whence they came. In that famed event, the confrontation with dictatorial Pharaoh, despising thee powerlessness of these fictitious natural gods of Egypt, the Lord used their very forms and names, so sacred in that land, for this and that god, as practical emblems that ruined Egypt by the corresponding plagues, whether in frogs, flies or unprotected cattle.
If then Israel was so keen to say, This is the god who brought us out of Egypt, and to make an image of an Egyptian god, the calf, what could be more impudent, imprudent and blatant! What could possibly more distort the truth!
As an expression of scorn of the much shown power of God, something they exposed to contempt because they wanted to have the sort of living they had in Egypt (no doubt, ex-slavery), and were impatient, it could scarcely have been more brilliant. What was it like ? It was as if a petitioner for pardon, were to slap the face of the judge, call his power oppressive, his skill redundant, his calling an imposition and his will a laugh. Deriding, however, they were derisible; contemptuous, they were contemptible, like soldiers on mission, not only freely discussing with the enemy, all their plans, but with him, revising them.
They would not face the climb up the mountain which faith presented, even when the power already shown by God in their multiple deliverances and the care of their bodies in food and water, hundreds of thousands of them, had attested that it was simply a matter of acting in faith. God had the power.
It was assuredly a great sin, like many others, welling up in the heart in terms of long-held impatience and impenitence, as they went through the forms as their leader took them on, but complained many times, and sometimes bitterly.
If then, Moses urged the Lord (Exodus 31:31, an interesting arithmetical equivalent to Jeremiah's prediction of the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31:31), you will forgive their sin, well; but if not - then "BLOT ME OUT OF YOUR BOOK WHICH YOU HAVE WRITTEN!" he cried.
This in some ways was what is called a 'type' of Christ. That is, it shows in some facets a degree of similarity to the work that Jesus performed effectually for salvation, in an image beforehand.
CHRIST was willing to have to cry, "My God, My God, who have You forsaken Me!" as that sin that separated came as a curse (Galatians 3) upon Him, who bearing it, was then able to cancel its application to believers in Him; and who thus did it for them! The prediction of this desolatory experience to be suffered by the Messiah was quite clear in Psalm 22, a millenium before it happened. There was plenty of time to consider before He took a body to do the job, and became incarnate as man, the waiting sacrifice to come... (Psalm 40 cf. Joyful Jottings 22-25). He however came willingly (Psalm 40), delighting to do the will of the Father, as Messiah.
For Him, it was not any sort of request to blot out His name from the Book divine, as in Moses' case, but a work which blotted out His own life as a sin-sacrifice, itself! As God, of course, He was incapable of being held by death, which had to yield up His body (Psalm 16, Luke 24, John 20, Acts 2:23-24); but this did nothing to mitigate what He suffered in the midst of His passion.
This entire spirit of dedication, unable to redeem in the case of Moses (and Paul in Romans 10 gives an excoriating testimony not unlike that of Moses), was thus to be seen. With God, entirety of dedication is the norm; it is not the exception. Errors are one thing; erratic motions of heart that know no bounds and walk in blight, not light: these are something else!
The LORD exhibited His divine sovereignty in reminding the distraught Moses that as far as anyone being blotted out of the Book, this was for HIM to do, where sin still stood. ALL the sacrifices intimated at least the COVER of sin in sacrifice. The LORD knows who are His, and these, having received Him, are always covered; for it is a life for life transaction (as in Romans 5:9-10). It is always essential to realise this, lest 'works' of endurance or some other thing be added to the Lord's work in redemption, making the sinner a co-redeemer, which is ridiculous, since sin has a net debt! (Romans 6:23). If you are already legally dead by sin, what could you ever contribute! That would be like estimating the speed of a car before you had one.
The Lord then directed Moses to continue his leadership, and showed him that there would be indeed a presence with him.
In the next Chapter of Exodus, 33, we find the Lord exhibiting to Moses, His goodness. Having told the people to consecrate themselves to the Lord, he turned, as any good pastor should, to the Lord for his own part. "Now therefore," he communed as he spoke to the Lord (as the man of God must), "I pray, if I have found grace in Your sight, show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight..."
Eventually, the Lord did make a marvellous revelation of Himself to Moses, as we see in Exodus 33:19:19ff.. "Please show me Your glory!" Moses asked (33:18).
The Lord did. I know you by name, He told Moses (33:17). Hence He acted. Then He said:
make all My goodness pass before you,
Here at once you see that the Lord is not subject to man and his inclinations, but is sovereign, and makes His own intimations. We also see the operation of the "Seek and you will find," law.
God is not to be subject to negotiation, to change in order to be found satisfactory to any member of the human race. He is what He is as His name had already been declared to be and to imply (Exodus 3:14). Time itself cannot move Him, far less items inside it. If He hears prayer, it is because His unrelieved love sees fit to hear the cry of the heart (cf. Hosea 7:14-16, Psalm 145:18-19).
Some have of course for centuries misinterpreted this to mean that He is only arbitrarily, or in terms of some sort of self-fulfilment determined to have a few, and that it is all a mystery why there are not more, and so on. This is the misnamed mystery*3 (cf. Christ's Ineffable Peace and Grace Ch. 2 ). God makes it clear that He would have ALL (I Timothy 2, Colossians 1:19ff., John 3, I John 2, I Peter 3:9, Ezekiel 33:11), even in contexts of the most categorical character about heaven and earth, God and mankind. It is useless to believe some scriptures, and omit others, in a sort of doctrinal dither, as is the way of many.
God is utterly sovereign, and sovereignly would have all, but REFUSES to have any where faith is not to be found, love is not to be resident, and it is HE ALONE who knows who are who and which is what, as He moves on the surface of the waters of the peoples of this world: and indeed as God, before all time, He knew the answer to His OWN DIVINE and SOVEREIGN DETERMINATION. He knew it for one, and He knew it for all (Ephesians 1:4, Romans 8:30ff.).
He would have all, but none on false premises, and so took those whom He had foreknown. This has been shown often before; but it is well to show it again, in our present context, for many would have God an ineffective aspirant, constantly thwarted by man, and more would have Him a mysterious tyrant, marvellous to some but not really interested TO THE POINT THAT ETERNALLY MATTERS, in others. Alas, the one is as contrary to His word as the other, and this tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee folly continues without resolution, since each is wrong in part.
That is the sort of mischievous quagmire which tends to smear history, and it should be avoided by scriptural precision.
It is not all and only sovereignty: though sovereignty as in Moses and Paul - Romans 9:16, and John's Gospel, 1:12, is complete, and needs no philosophical shove by traditionalists who do not follow its purity. It is, on the other hand, not at all the work of the human will in its historical setting, nor of any action by human will in its own right and status (John 1:12, Romans 9:16). It IS relevant (John 3:19), but it achieves for itself, NOTHING. It is excluded as operationally efficient AT ALL, and that many times, just as the other equally unscriptural concept, that of some mysterious sovereignty, with blind patches where love did not get through.
The power of this love to distinguish what it is about, to find what it seeks, and to secure those who are its own is manifest at this point. It is the same with every Christian now. It is not because of any merit, gift, power or purity of our own that we are chosen. It is the Lord's own choice.
That choice is HIS ONLY, and it is made with the full scope of His desire in integrity and truth, for all, and His taking only some: love having its own limits, and never either forcing or falsifying.
Thus the Lord is showing Moses that some antics of annihilatory or self-destructive kind, as a bargaining chip or other, towards God, even if on behalf of the people, DO NOT WORK. God chooses whom He WILL in His own good will (Ephesians 1).
That is the current lesson about goodness. It flows where divinity has made the divine channels.
It does not flow into the absorbent desert. When God sent the water at the striking of the rock with the rod of Moses, it was not a general outpouring, but one for a purpose, at a signal as arranged, and it met need as intended.
You cannot direct pity; you cannot enjoin mercy. It comes from the heart of the one concerned. Such is the nature of pity, of mercy; and as God has a heart so irrepressibly profound as that, He can say that whether things in heaven or things on earth, He would have them ALL reconciled to Him. Then we KNOW how vast is the parameter of divine pity, and the majesty of divine mercy. There is no hole in its whole. It is however applied with truth, its inseparable companion, and where love is not, neither is there salvation; where truth is not, neither is redemption. Such things are not subject to mortal manipulation, but known to God only. WHEN the words heard ARE mixed with faith (unlike the case of the nation of Israel in Moses' day, as shown in Hebrews 3-4), then what is found is eternal, inseparable, spiritual.
Moses, known by name to God, was shown the glory of God by divine fiat, as sure as that which founded the earth. Nothing can remove that. What happens, happens; and this not by oversight, as if to omit, but by oversight, as to include through superintendence! God shows mercy to whom He will show mercy. It is He who acts.
Asking Moses to hide in a Rock, the enduring symbol of Christ as exhibiting the salvation of God (cf. Psalm 62, II Samuel 22:32ff., I Corinthians 10), the Lord caused His glory to pass before His servant.
What was elemental in that glory ? As Exodus 33:19 showed, it was the Lord's GOODNESS.
make all My goodness pass before you,
It included, then, grace, mercy, pity, required the Rock for its exposure, and involved a "cover" with His own hand, such as sacrifice in fact brings, this concept being fundamental to the 'atonement' word found so often in Leviticus.
The even greater definitive revelation was made when Christ became incarnate.
Here we must add that it is written that God did not show His FACE, to Moses, who saw Him in a way like One passing. In II Corinthians 4:6, we learn, just as Hebrews 11 announced that past all the Old Testament saints, there was something better, that they might not be complete without us of the New Testament, that
God who commanded light to shine out of darkness,
So are we introduced by the
record of Moses to the goodness of God, its sovereignty, its pity and
compassion, its mercy and its knowledge of people by name, its refusal to be
dismissed when once it is found, and to the glory which accompanies it, the very
glory of the living God.
DAVID, JEREMIAH AND PAUL ...
AND EMBARKING ON
OF DIVINE GOODNESS
We move to David, that shepherd of sheep and people, so beloved by God, a man, despite episodes of sin here and there, of continual godliness while seeking after the wisdom and will of God: one after His own heart (I Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22).
In Psalm 23, we find this David singing with that assurance that many mistake for pride, arrogance or presumption, but which is the Lord's own testimony as in Romans 8:16, to His servants, who by faith, according to His word and its promises, have found Him, and being invested with His Holy Spirit, are given that intimate knowledge of Himself which has as one outcome, this very thing.
Goodness and mercy shall SURELY follow me all the days of my life. As in Psalm 21, his inheritance in the Lord is for ever.
What then IS this goodness ? It has not changed since Moses. It is the Lord's enduement with strength (just as food has goodness), with security (as when a father cares for his son), with virtue (as when a child is brought up in a good school, to the standards of which his heart is attuned), and it has provision with mercy, like a twin, which impinges like a garden hose on the troubled cement, to clean it. If now for some, there is now PHYSICAL water shortage: yet with the Lord there is never any shortage of forgiveness to His children (I John 1:7-2:2). His sufficiency is ultimate, intimate and irrevocable (Romans 5:9ff.). His Spirit is eternal.
This, the goodness of the Lord, is associated with rest (cf. Licence for Liberty Ch. 8). There is with it, a sense of quietness and still (Psalm 23:2), as in Psalm 46 also, and Isaiah 48:17ff..
Indeed, the goodness of God is like a jutting stream, flowing with vigorous freshness, itself from the snowy uplands, moving fearlessly over the precipice to the ground below, and its spray is iridescent, speaking of mercy in its lights, while its volume is liberality and its surge is compassion, its fall sacrificial love, and its impact, the remedy for sin which dashes goodness in its inexorable flow, into the service of the stream below. (Cf. What is all this rot about not believing!). How serviceable the Lord was to David, we see in the stark reception of divine mercy, in Psalm 51! How great was His goodness, and how unfailing were the streams of cleansing.
When we come to Jeremiah, we find that the Lord has known him before he was formed in the womb (as is the case for all His born-again and redeemed children - Ephesians 1:4, cf. Revelation 13:8, I Peter 1:19, Romans 8:30ff.). Called, he was promised a brow endued with divine strength, so that he would and must prevail in his task. He found it appalling at times (as in Jeremiah 15, esp. vv.16ff.), but submitted to His service; he experienced anguish at the disobedience of his people, as with the Psalmist in 119: it was at times a burden and weight to him. Yet in His goodness, the Lord encouraged Him, as we see in Jeremiah 15:10-11, 15-21.
"Woe is me, my mother,
That you have borne me,
A man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth!
I have neither lent for interest,
Nor have men lent to me for interest.
Every one of them curses me.
"The Lord said:
'Surely it will be well with your remnant;
Surely I will cause the enemy to intercede with you
In the time of adversity and in the time of affliction.
"O Lord, You know;
Remember me and visit me,
And take vengeance for me on my persecutors.
In Your enduring patience, do not take me away.
Know that for Your sake I have suffered rebuke.
"Your words were found, and I ate them,
And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart;
For I am called by Your name,
"O Lord God of hosts.
I did not sit in the assembly of the mockers,
Nor did I rejoice;
I sat alone because of Your hand,
For You have filled me with indignation.
"Why is my pain perpetual
And my wound incurable,
Which refuses to be healed?
Will You surely be to me like an unreliable stream,
As waters that fail?
"Therefore thus says the Lord:
'If you return,
Then I will bring you back;
You shall stand before Me;
If you take out the precious from the vile,
You shall be as My mouth.
Let them return to you,
But you must not return to them.
'And I will make you to this people a fortified bronze wall;
And they will fight against you,
But they shall not prevail against you;
For I am with you to save you
And deliver you,' says the Lord.
'I will deliver you from the hand of the wicked,
And I will redeem you from the grip of the terrible.' "
In the Lord, even in the midst of many evils which brought devastation to a deaf people, he found that the divine mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). It is, he declared, only because of this mercy that all are not consumed. He KNOWS that "the Lord is my portion", in the depth of his soul (Lamentations 3:24); and it is for this reason that he hopes in Him!
What however of the Lord's goodness ? Lamentations 3:25 reveals that "the Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him." Man must await discipline, deliverance and instruction, in intimate and close communion with the God of his life. Such an attitude on the part of the Lord is dead set against those who are vile and seek to avoid perishing but having others do so on their behalf!
"To crush under one's feet all the prisoners of the earth, to turn aside the justice
due to a man, before the face of the Most High, or subvert a man in his cause -
The Lord does not approve."
Survival of the fittest (to deceive, murder, grab, rob, impose) is not His way. He has no need of teh gutter in order to create the highway.
Indeed, as Amos 2:14ff. declares it,
" 'Therefore flight shall perish from the swift; the strong shall not strengthen his power,
nor shall the mighty deliver himself: He shall not stand who handles the bow,
the swift of foot shall not escape, nor shall he ho rides a horse deliver himself:
the most courageous men of might shall flee naked in that day,' says the Lord."
Moreover, to pursue the point, Isaiah 2 tells us:
"The loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men
shall be brought low: The lord alone will be exalted in that day..."
The little self-elevations of man are too ludicrous, and when their exact nature is shown in judgment, they become pit variations, like some Violin Concerto, THE PIT AND THE SPIT!
In Romans 11, we find that Paul in the midst of a survey of Jew and Gentile, in their spiritual history, past and to come, has this statement to make:
"Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity;
but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness.
Otherwise you also will be cut off."
This is speaking en bloc to the Gentile world, nations and entities at large. If the Jewish race had such a start, and such a judgment, who or what does the Gentile consider himself to be, that he should vaunt himself, his wisdom, his culture, his ways, his opinions! God is good to those who are His, but as to hypocrites, boasters, the belligerent in spirit who seek their own will, way, eminence or glory, defying design, in contempt of canons of life, witless willingly of salvation, He can be severe as the history of Israel attests.
Thus further in the context just noted above, we have this, before and after that verse.
And if some of the branches were broken off,
and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them,
and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree,
do not boast against the branches.
"But if you do boast, remember
that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.
"You will say then, 'Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.'
Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith.
Do not be haughty, but fear.
For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.
Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God:
on those who fell, severity;
but toward you, goodness,
if you continue in His goodness.
Otherwise you also will be cut off.
And they also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in,
for God is able to graft them in again.
"For if you were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature,
and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree,
how much more will these, who are natural branches,
be grafted into their own olive tree?
"For I do not desire, brethren,
that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion,
that blindness in part has happened to Israel
until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in."
Sporting with God does not accomplish anything; being double-minded is worthless, and formalism is merely a prelude to condemnation, except it cease (as in Isaiah 1 cf. Questions and Answers 2 ). To those who know Him, and being regenerate, remain His always (I John 3:9, 5:11ff.), there may, in full accord with His goodness, be discipline (Hebrews 12); but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5, cf. II Samuel 7:13-14).
How vast however is the goodness which, not content even with enduring so thorough a breach of covenant as Israel showed in killing their King, Christ the Son of the Eternal God (cf. Zechariah 11), with a sale price set for the God of the earth, as that for one block of land, had further mercy still in store for them. Even though it could be deemed the end in indignation, God had already designed a different course. Thus as in Deuteronomy 32-33, despite the foreseen folly of Israel (as also in Isaiah 49:7), God designed that they should, bankrupt of merit but not of promise, be returned to their land (as also in Ezekiel 36-37 cf. It Bubbles ... Ch. 10, SMR Appendix A).
What a declaration of demerit is there made (Ezekiel 36:22)! There is no room for illusion; it is by no means a reward for faith or consistency that brings Israel at last, as then predicted and now fulfilled, back to their land. Instead, this mercy is found in a statement of goodness, the Lord's own name being their protection. For MY NAME'S SAKE, God declares, Israel is to be brought back to their promised land. What honour is this abiding in His divine goodness, and what infinitude of mercy is to be discovered in this very fact, in view of the highly personal affront presented in reckless dauntless and devilish deviousness by the rulers!
What affront ? It was to the front, indeed, even to death, given to God when the nation was given the opportunity to show the difference between form and ceremony, on the one hand, and true worship in spirit on the other: and failed abysmally. To be sure, it was foreknown and devised, and was sure to happen (Acts 2:23); but divine certainty is not the same as divine compulsion. Such divine mercy may thus be the antidote to human folly: it His own choice, and not any harassment of the Lord that brings it. That is what the Lord is like, honourable, merciful, far-seeing, wise, and good.
Thus the foretold return of the vagrant nation was not some congratulation on man's constitutional freedom, soiled and severed indeed as it was by sin: and though the mercy and goodness of God in this event were vast, it did no obesiance as if to some imaginary form of esteem, some bizarre form of national saintliness! (cf. Predestination and Freewill, and the Hexad, On Predestination and Foreknowledge, Liberty and Necessity, Responsibility, Duty and Creativity). It was precisely the opposite (Ezekiel 36:22). The divine expatiation leaves no doubt!
Did not the pulling out of beard, then, qualify for cessation of goodness ? (Isaiah 50). No... What about crucifying slowly, to maximise indignity, torture, torment, anguish and exposure to mockery ? Does that qualify for the remit of goodness to some other place ? No. There were results ... but one to come was this, that in honour, God brought them back to their land, long promised. It was not, to be sure, THEIR honour, but His! He IS honourable, and His goodness never fails. Where the line is cut, so that in His foreknowledge and man's reality, love has no place, goodness, which works in a milieu of love, and mercy, which is an expression of it, then there are results. Many achieve these (Matthew 7:15ff.).
Then even His bearing of sin is irrelevant for such cases ram the offer and the sacrifice alike, with the rest, if it were possible, back into the mouth of God.
Goodness never fails. Repentance and faith in Christ crucified, yes bodily risen, yes deity incarnate and the bridge from hell deserved to heaven found for the foundling, this never fails to find its home.
Thus, Romans 2:1ff. tells us that the way to find this home is NOT in acting as judge of others, but in finding the will of the Judge, and His goodness within it, by faith.
"Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge,
for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself;
for you who judge practice the same things.
"But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things.
"And do you think this, O man,
you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same,
that you will escape the judgment of God?
"Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering,
not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart
you are treasuring up for yourself wrath
in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God ..."
The broadcast of God's judgments is not judging but indicating the principles of Him who does assess, who commissions such things (Matthew 28:19-20). However, where moral rectitude becomes the basis of hope (contrary to Romans 10's condemnation), then evil has free reign, pride free fall and the pit is the course for it to follow. Notice in this, the "riches of His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering", so that these three are allies.
How well Israel illustrates it al; but what now of the Gentiles, who are bringing things to the very sort of inane vanity, emptiness and rebellion with deceit which Manasseh, which Ahaz secured, as they brought Judah to ruin!
In goodness, then, we learn of that kindness which is in no hurry to condemn, but knows how to forbear; while it has no tilt to trifle with truth-breakers, whose fruits are found in their own mouths, in due course: "They shall eat the fruit of their own way" (Proverbs 1:31).
Again in Proverbs 18:21, we have this wisdom:
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they who love it shall eat its fruit."
The goodness of the Lord however has RICHES, for He is inventive, like some massive construction firm, seeking for outlet in life for His lovingkindness, the repository among mankind, of His sweetness of disposition and glorious beauty of holiness. It cannot be tampered with; but He does not lose His temper. What is irrevocable, is acknowledged; but how far does it go before that is reached! Yet as you see in the day of the prophet Jeremiah, and in that of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the point can be reached (cf. Isaiah 57:15), where there is limit in man's very construction to such things. Judgment at last... amidst lamentation, even from the Lord, does come.
How grievous that man either tends to become rapacious of ceremonies, as if these could save him, or indifferent to truth, as if he could save himself. Reckless, irrational and unrepentant, he digs a grave, as if his very life depended on it; and how well he kills and maims and seeks to destroy those sent to warn him (cf. Mark 12, Matthew 23:34ff.).
Yet for those who come in faith to Him, what goodness continues; and that of the history of Israel, brought back at last, is merely one symbol of it. Thus, "All things work together for good to those who love God, the called according to His purpose," as in Romans 8:29 may seem hard to those who have just lost a missionary by beheading, the work of intemperate insolence against all spirituality and all seemliness, as they seek to proliferate in our generation, the crucifixion of Christ, by slaying His people!
Yet as we suffer, and some do so in multitudinous ways over the decades, we recall the words of Paul in I Corinthians 4:6ff., II Corinthians 4, concerning the multitude of his sufferings, ignominies, shipwreck and thrashing times, drifting, deprived, disesteemed. It is not a pleasure-pain equation; for that may safely and aptly be left to robots so programmed. For PERSONS, it is a question of what is worth while, to serve, and how to get it done. When God is found, these sufferings hurt; these travails are no mosquito bites; loss of name and fortune, through slander and pursuit of what this world does not value, is not a nothing, a bauble, a worthless thing in itself. It is a heavy import duty, to be paid for bringing fresh news of the unchanging works of God to this fallen world.
It is not that suffering on the part of Christians, does not exist: they are in some senses, specialists in sufferings. It is that it is worthless compared with the point, purpose and program, the Person served and the result to be obtained through fidelity, even that of working in integrity within the kingdom of heaven for the only one ever to be man, who IS perfect, and rich in goodness, filled with kindness, loving without blenching if it is to be to death, and with power, able to break death, which after all is only a penalty for sin, so that the payment excludes its eventual impact altogether on those who are His.
Goodness in all of this is multitudinous, and surpasses any suffering; and it is no more pleasure than is the face of one's wife. It is of a wholly different dimension. Goodness has a face, and that is the face of Christ. Longing is met by reality, truth is met by its personal exponent, mercy is found in righteousness and a family is discovered which has more delight in Him and in His ways, than any ever had in pleasure. This is life, not pleasure, marvel not money, victory not vice, truth not possessions, and what is this, "My beloved is mine and I am His!" as the Song of Solomon puts it (2:16).
Here is no sad letter announcing decease; for this is done, and done for all who come. Does Stephen grieve because he was stoned (Acts 7-8)! Did he regret warning a generation coming to ruin, if by any means some might be saved! Did the glory shining in his very face, as he passed to the Lord, not speak for itself!
The goodness of God is not lax, nor are its pursuits small, nor is it for small-minded hedonism or large-minded self-will. It has a nest, and we are reminded of this (Isaiah 66:2):
one will I look, on him who is poor, and of a contrite spirit,
and who trembles at My word."
Thus is understood the word of II Thessalonians 1:11-12 (italics added for the sake of the point here in view):
"Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power,
that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you,
and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ."
What an encompassment is this, the 'good pleasure' of 'His goodness'. How consistent, persistent, insistent and consistent is His goodness. It is as water, that given its channel, ever flows; but outside this, where the desert seems almost to blight the sand as if to make it yellow, such water does not ordinarily flow. It is necessary to be on course, to find the Lord, to believe the Gospel, to receive His mercies where they may be found (Isaiah 55), and to bring to Him a will charmed to receive His ministrations, and delighted to obey, not as a ground for goodness, but as a reciprocity which, though small in kind, is vast in intention!
Finally, in I Timothy 2, we find yet more of the scope of this celestial goodness.
"Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions,
and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority,
that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence:
"For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
GOOD is it in the sight of God that we act in such a way as this, leading quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence, making this an aim even in turbulence, because this is the will of the God who would have all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
There is God and man, all of mankind, and these are the two in relationship here. The One, God, would have the other, all men, to be saved, as also reconciled, seen in Colossians 1:19, where we find this desire extends even to heaven itself. Such is His goodness.
THE WRITTEN AND THE LIVING WORD:
CHRIST AND GOODNESS ...
what an uninhibited, divinely inhabited torrent has fallen
freely in this world of man
He who IS good, where goodness has its place, He finds it good that we so act, His own desire being for good to all (Psalm 86:5, 145:9, Isaiah 55, Micah 7:18ff., Ezekiel 33:11). The Lord's name is such that "He is good to all and His tender mercies are over all His works."
Goodness is not discriminatory in this, that God is no respecter of persons. In His own heart, He so would like for all to come to Him to receive of His own bounty, goodness and truth; but not constrained by circumstances (for He created all), He moves with such an AMPLITUDE OF SCOPE, among men, and finding His own, neither forces not manipulates any, but changes where love finds place. Here the less finds the more; for what has impediment, has no room; and what has no impediment, repents.
God acts in truth and love acts with its vast restraint, so that we are assured that it is no lack of love, of amplitude of heart on the part of God, which excludes any, but rather that past all the willing and sin of man, He knows what is His own. It is as if all were seen in liberty before sin, where none being in sight sinful, can do better than any other; and in this, He who sees all, knowing His own, has them choose Him. In fact, and in history, they are in sin, and so cannot so act (I Cor. 2:14). Hence HE chooses them! But the GUILT remains that in the very face of such love, they would not! There are those, as Stephen declares in Acts 7, who do always resist the Holy Spirit.
That is the divine prescription for judgment, and not some endemic sin common to all. That is not the case; for in John 3 the entire emphasis and program for Chapters 1-3, is the coming of CHRIST THE LIGHT, and what does not want THIS LIGHT, is what by its preference condemns itself. It is not a moral fault, but a breach of mercy that counts in the end.
If someone wants to contradict God, and say that it is really God's own lack of willingness that is at fault, or in force, and not this preference in the heart of man: then this is mere impertinence in the deepest sense. God says over and again, the exact opposite.
To use philosophic presumption to try to force the issue against the word of God is not wise. Even if this is tried, however, it remains true that there is no slightest divergence of the word of God here or there. GOD chooses, it is true; but man is ultimately to the very zenith of destiny, RESPONSIBLE, not for what necessitated guilt, that his will is corrupt, but for failing to come when THE LIGHT came TO HIM!
The ready availability of a model*4 whereby all this logically flows like a river, is not the chief point. The fact is that God of course knows His own people (II Timothy 2:19), past every act or climate or condition of sin with its results of any kind, and that He as love does not seek His own way and will in a selfish fashion, as if to manipulate things to His liking; but rather, respecting the reality of the image of God made in man, though not the sin, He makes those who are His own to appear as such, not as virtual conscripts, but as those found by His own mind and knowledge, before all creation so much as arrived! It is not a matter of imitating Adam, an historical figure, but discerning the soul in its naked reality, sin apart, and knowing the soul: as it is written, Whom He FOREKNEW, those He predestinated.
It depends on divine knowledge (Romans 8:29), first of all, not of vacancy and vacuity, but of people; and not of people in their merit, since history is excluded (Romans 9:11), sin being repugnant to 'choosing the Lord' (I Cor. 2:14), its critical nature, and sin is not able to dim the eye of the Lord who sees in all, beyond all, but of people relative to Himself. Nor is it a case of superior susceptibility, since the will DOES NOT CHOOSE God, and seen past sin, persons are not better or worse; but of the divine knowledge which love embraces and mercy precipitates. Being born again means that the heart will love God, to be sure; but that this cannot be the criterion of choice is clear, since it is the result of divine choice, and imparts its own result. God KNOWS who are His own, past all sin and merit, and these alone does He take, without truncation of truth, or manipulation of heart.
Christ did not come to condemn the world but that the world might be saved, and with His definitive love to the world (John 3:17,3:16 in order), He sought that whoever believes might not perish. HIS motivation is express as in Colossians 1, I Timothy 2, Ezekiel 33, and all the many moving expressions of divine entreaty and desire to the heart, from the heart, met by human resolution to avoid this salvation, with judgment amid lamentation, to come (cf. Jeremiah 51:9, 48:35-36, Isaiah 48:17ff., Luke 19:42ff., Matthew 23:37ff., cf. SMR Appendix B). Why do people have to go past what is said, philosophically additive, and ignoring what is said, contradict it!
God it is who knows who and what He is, and what He wants, and His whole Being, so why reconstruct!
The whole error of Calvinism, which truncates God's goodness, is that it HAS to find its own philosophic satisfaction, despite multiple contrary statements in the word of God; and it then makes it appear more sanctified to defy divine statements of this kind, as if this in some way made man humbler. IS it any pride, if seen as if without sin, you are found to be one of God's children, your will being made, in that scenario before time, relevant to divine KNOWLEDGE! Did you make yourself ?
Heaven would be hell to those who do not desire it; and all find their place. God's goodness is not truncated; nor does He bow to invent NO ONE, lest any depart, for that would exclude from life eternal the many to whom it is granted.
It must be added that in all fairness, the five points of Calvin*5 are a great achievement for theology; but in their normative setting, they are a foul blot. Such is the wonder of man, that when one follows a man, one is likely to find all too soon, that great as he may be, something close either to idolatry or to blindness may result. Then, falling for his errors is worse than his own lassitude in making them! Humility does not trust in the word of man, but in that of God.
The goodness of God is thus so vast that it has no limit; and its flow is with love, so sensitive, that it never merely possesses, as if to secure what becomes a virtual revolutionised robot.
Indeed, God does not lament so often in the Bible, that man does not come, because He simply makes those whom He would, to come. It is because in so bringing home many sons to salvation, He as author of faith, implants it where the ground receives it (Matthew 13:18ff.), He being the One who knows. He laments because though His goodness is pure and unlimited, yet they do not come.
Though He would that they come, they divert mercy, disregard grace and continue without His offer, in terms of which He is the propitiation not for the sins of the saved only, but on behalf of the whole world! It is precisely as in the priestly sacrifices of old, preliminary symbols of Christ to come, where the offering on behalf of all the nation was of course applicable ONLY to those who believed (cf. Deuteronomy 29:18ff.).
That is why He gave it this amplitude in scope of purvey, that He so loved this same world, and so came to it, not to judge it, but that it might be saved. This is the realm of His operation, the butt of His love and the scope of His sacrifice.
It is for this reason that it is written, "Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" This to to "man, whoever you are". In this three fold way, God's so loving the world that whosoever ...; and in accord with this providing a propitiation for sins, not on behalf of believers only, but for all the world; and again, showing goodness leading to repentance for man, whoever he is, He stresses His concern to avoid misrepresentation, limitation or other mischief (cf. Psalm 78:41).
Again, there is a fourth way, in which, having made peace by the Cross, He is desiring to reconcile to Himself ALL, whether in heaven or on earth; and again, it is presented in a fifth uniform, for being one God, He has one Mediator between God and man, desiring as He does that all men be saved. These are categorical characterisations in the most robust universality (cf. Great Execrations ... Chs. 7 and 9). .
You can move from Romans 2, to John 3, to I John 2, to Colossians 1, to I Timothy 2, and then find as in Ezekiel 20, after a review of the strenuous works of God in bypassing anger and seeking to give more opportunity to the people whom He loved, in 33:11, that He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that he should turn from his evil way. In this, in the most powerful and articulate, relevant and ardent way, He is found remonstrating, affirming, negating ill-will, expostulating and entreating. In Micah 7:19ff., we find He delights in mercy.
The passion has all the amplitude of the Godhead.
Whether it be Israel or another, so does He speak, so act. Why then does man not come ? Of a certainty, it is nothing to do with a limit on the goodness of God, who so seeks man, WHOEVER HE IS!
The will that excludes is a portion of being made in the divine image, and thus essential to man, even if God, because of man's sin, finds it appropriate to operate for man, beyond man's own knowledge and indeed, before time began, in salvation. The goodness that WOULD include, is essential to God, whose it is, whose love is such towards the whole world, whose sacrifice is for all, in their behalf but not in their stead: so that those who before the very mind of God, reject Him stand responsible from eternity, to eternity as despising the goodness of God which was towards all, leading them to repentance, and NOT towards letting them go.
God has deemed it so.
"IF," said Christ, "I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have had sin;
but now they have no excuse for their sin," (John 15:22).
Why ? It can only be because it requires in some sense, known to God, a direct, total and adequate exposure to His Word, the Saviour, brings an informed negation. It is as in John 3:19,
"This is their condemnation, that the light has come into the world,
and men loved darkness more than light,
because their deeds were evil."
In John 15, we find Christ even pursued the topic of their answerability to the light given, of the necessity that HE be both seen and heard, or the equivalent, before final judgment can be given. It is not a matter of a hidden clause, but of an expressed sentence, paragraph, yes book, yes life, yes Person Himself, Jesus Christ. It is the word of Christ.
Such is the love of God that ONLY by the rejection of this light, viable, visible, expressed and express, can judgment happen; and this ? It is because God SO LOVED the world, that this exclusion is the one which is operative. God says it is; some say it is not: I believe God.
If, said Christ, pursuing His initial declaration of guilt, I had not come among them and done the works no one else did, had not come and spoken the words no one else did, they had not had sin. But now ... their sin remains (John 15:21ff.).
What then of those who do not come, are not His ?
The matter is not hidden, and far less does it devolve on horrible systems or authority which decides by mystery; but it is God who decides despite His love, and in terms of it, and such is His own declaration. Can someone then know better than God, who is not God!
I think not. He would lack the infinity, the omniscience; and of course, not being God, he would have to guess, and in guessing, guess contrary to what the God who speaks, and has said. This, it is theology ? Is this some form of Arminian choice in Calvinism, that of the theologian for his premises!
It is aspirant for the dunce's cap; but far worse, it implicates the goodness of God in violation of many scriptures, many themes of scripture, and many principles enunciated by God Himself in His book.
Let us however look at the results of what God does say.
He would have all, but in this, there is no scope for simple securing, but for the meekness in which love lives. Love, from God in its origin among men, is like that. It does not grasp, as if by the scruff of the neck. It is not selfish, rapacious, or disregarding of its own nature (I Corinthians 13). It does not impel, as by cunning deceit; it does not trick, nor does it manufacture. It is personal, and it is by its very nature, not inclined to ravish. That is for others, who do not love.
These are divinely revealed principles, shown in almost endless examples, from that of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17ff.), whom Jesus loved but allowed to depart without Him, to that of Israel in its day of rebellion. How long and earnestly did God speak, with what dissertation, information, opportunity did He urge! Jeremiah 17 gives an extreme example, and Hosea an extreme stimulant to realisation to a people blinded by sin; while II Chronicles 36 gives to His love of His people the address of a spiritual saga.
Nor are we bound to any apologetic model, designed to show the singular and indeed unique rationality in terms of sovereignty and will, responsibility and response*6, in the Bible's presentation: we are bound by the word of God. Biblical Christian Apologetics, shows this wonder concerning it; but in what precise way God in His own form has secured these principles of His, it is a technical matter, neither needed for the current knowledge of man, nor fitting. It enough that the matter answers to reason, derives from scripture, and that nothing else can or does resolve the simultaneous operation of freedom and predestination, freedom and necessity, liberty and love*7; nor has anything else any basis in any professed declaration from God.
This is, quite simply, the way it is: God would have ALL; His goodness is over all His works; He SO loved the world; He SO presented His Son a sacrifice on behalf of all; He desires to reconcile ALL, to bring ALL to a knowledge of the truth.
It is equally true that He is never deceived, receives NONE on any other basis, can be manipulated for His own part, by NONE, makes effectual His sacrifice for NONE who does not receive Him, pays for NONE who rejects the ransom (cf. Isaiah 53, where those healed are those whose sins are laid on Him, and cf. Romans 8:32), allows NO other way, and it is by the will of NONE that He is selected (John 1:12), for it is HE and HE ALONE who is able and willing, who knows His own amidst those who, in history, are incapacitated by sin from such selection.
That, it is where trust comes in. He says it, we receive it, and rejoice that such is the divine goodness that He would have all, and such the divine grace, that He takes only those who receive Him, and such the divine charity, that this is not a mirage as if it were not love, being mere manipulation or mystic mix to remove the image of God in man as relevant at all; but a marvel of kindness toward mankind (TItus 2-3).
To forget what the image of God in man, does for man, and to ignore what the word of God says about His goodness and love toward man, that is one option. Another ? It is this: to remember both, and to thank God that Christ did not weep because He messed up sovereignty, but because His sovereign will (Matthew 11:28ff.) extending to all, yet received only some, love being completely satisfied, despite grief, with the results of love's purity.
Alas, that man is so freed to trust either in himself, the Arminian way, you and God managing somehow together (in form, though this may not be the intention), or in his own philosophy, the Calvinist way (in form, though this too may not be the intention). Alas that such miscarriages of divine goodness, not in God, but in man, should disadorn His complete sovereignty, and man's complete responsibility, even in the face of that divine love which knows no limit, in its heart, but knows its own, in truth! It is doubtless not at all normal that someone seeks to caricature instead of represent the love and goodness of God in its scope; but when the explicit in seeking love, is rendered in terms of some hideous decree, the distinction may be difficult to discern. It is a horrible distortion.
Whatever be professed by the philosophy of man, will does not change facts.
Man IS responsible for sinning, but NOT for sinning against the light if it is not shining in the way which God in John 1-3, designates: the incarnation. That is the point of John 15:21-23. Sinner at all times until paradise, man yet is not guilty of the special sin of rejecting the salvation of the Lord, in His preferment of explicit mercy, unless in some way known to God, in or before time, he so exhibits preference, in the way assigned in John 3:19. Christ even made Himself personally that criterion, and refused to assign the relevant, fatal and final sin WITHOUT THIS! Who is man who judges, who determines that it is otherwise, and dares in the presence of the goodness of God, to talk of such limitations, not in the atonement alone, but in the very love of God. The atonement is limited, since God does not pay for what is not procured; but the attainment is not.
Love and goodness are limitless is scope, but pure in operation. Hence God’s heart should not be so mis-used; nor His work expanded where it does not secure. It is as He describes, His word, His work, His salvation, His love and His result. Responsibility comes where rejection is available; and for Christ, it is as He has declared it in the most forcible possible terms: NO COME, NO GUILT GONE.
Indeed, in time itself, it is not just that CHRIST WOULD HAVE GATHERED them as chicks to His wing, but that He OFTEN would have done so. In fact, He apostrophises Jerusalem; HOW OFTEN WOULD I HAVE GATHERED! We have shown the sense of this in some detail in SMR Appendix B, but it is perfectly clear: He for His part would OFTEN have brought many to salvation, so escaping the devastations of judgment about to come. They would not. He wept.
Where is this non-goodness, this non-liberality, this non-totality and comprehensiveness of those whom He would have reconciled ? If it is so once, that it is broken, what if it be twice, and what if this be, by the word of the living Lord who DOES the thing! What if it be OFTEN! Does it then not occur ? Is there no limit to this travesty of the truth!
The love of God, the goodness of God is limited by no mysterious sovereignty. It is the resultant which is limited, and this by sovereign refusal to change the Gospel, the repentance needed or the impotence of man to do the saving for himself, yes, in this world, even the will relevant. It is all wrought beforehand in the mind and knowledge of God: what we have, it is the principles of His procedure. The North and South Pole might exchange themselves; but not the love or the word of God. The world WILL go, but the love of God will not alter in amplitude or in breadth, in depth or in wonder (Ephesians 3).
It is so in the Bible, and in fact. We may mash our faces, and be guilty of bad driving to get this result; but if a doctor is not found, we are NOT guilty of ALSO rejecting medical help.
Why invent when God says ? How often does He declaim against those who, despite the repeated intimations and actions of His merciful goodness, forbearance and kindness, yet insist on fleeing from the light which loving has sought them (cf. Ezekiel 20)! How is it that man so acts to diminish the love of God, in such ways! It is like a wobbly car, which wobbles first one way, and then the other. (Cf. Tender Times for Timely Truth Ch. 2 including End-note 1 ).
Why not rejoice that not only is His love and goodness of this repeatedly stated amplitude, but that His word is without problem or contortion, clear in all things as He has declared in Proverbs 8, Himself! There is no horrible mystery, only a hapless misconstruction which denies to God, what He repeatedly both affirms and exhibits of Himself.
For our part, we rejoice exceedingly in this, His goodness without limit, His love without barrier; and His wisdom without dark speck of any kind.
See Highway of Holiness Ch. 4.
EXCURSION ON ISRAEL,
THE NAME and the
of the MESSIAH
In the DEFEAT of all others: God only avails.
See SMR pp. 507.
Here the restoration of Israel to the symbolic 'olive tree' from which it had for lack of faith, been cut off, is depicted, as for their own part they come back, so fulfilling the rush of Jewish gladness in their new relationship; and at the same time, the stress is laid that it is after all to the ONE tree, now inhabited by Gentile believers, that they come back. There are these two elements.
Both points are true, and "all Israel" though undoubtedly a fulfilment for the Jew, as repeated shown on this site, is also by metonymy capable of extension readily, in context, to the glorious sense of universal racial inclusion, now no racial matter but the Regality of Christ, the eminent and obstructively obvious situation. It is He who is crucial at all, while the place of race passes away as a preliminary, as in Galatians 3:28, to the whole now multi-complemented Church. Both points are made there at the same place. Paul emphasises both aspects with precise applications.
In The Biblical Workman Chs. 1 and 3, the application of the olive tree parable is also provided. In the latter, the point is stressed that primarily in the context, in its pulsing interactions, the Israel that is saved is the nation in substance, its term as national hostage to the squalor of rebellion against the Lord, suddenly ceasing and its complementary phase arising, where those who had come earlier are joined by those coming to this significant flush of restoration of heart, so near to the end of the Age.
Thus is made a whole for Israel the nation; but it is one which by its very fulfilment after the time of the Gentiles is fulfilled, also constitutes another and broader whole, in which the final 'Israel of God' is seen as gathered from near and far, Jews and Gentile, and the entire perspective is fulfilled as Paul then expatiates, each part seen as a phase of the total, so that you have two completed phases combining into just one result in one tree of one kind for all. It is as much an error to ignore the root, the unchanged original basis of the tree, as to defy the trunk, where branches lie, in ONE tree, just one.
First there is phase 1 Jew, then phase 1 Gentile, in this sort of setting. Then there is Gentile phase fulfilled and later the Jewish phase fulfilled, so that then in and because of this now double result, you have BOTH phases fulfilled. The second, now added to the first, gives by that very fact a broader fulfilment yet.
In this, the literal and the metonymic are mixed as the former belatedly but eventually joins the latter, so completing both. Thus are brought to completion the two, now branches in the same tree, the tree of God, the Israel of God of Galatians 6, the Gentile Christian component in the era and epoch of grace, and the Israel that failed, each benighted in its time, both brought in by the work of Christ, who, as He came through the one, was sent to the other as wel (Isaiah 49:6)l. The one, the race, was too small, we read; the other is needed also.
Both now reside in that dear old, same tree in which so much activity in and out has occurred, and all continue in the integrity of Christ, that 'Israel' who prevailed (Isaiah 49:3), contradistinct from all earthly place, and as such distinguished and blessed, secure in the infinity of His identity as God. Thus delivered from above, all are now equipped with the same roots, and have the botanical criterion of faith.
Now each comes to the same ultimate point in Christ, in pointing to which, and providing a human base, although the race had failed, Israel the nation had been a prelude in its own phase.
Thus the vast nettage drawn from the whole human race, or put otherwise, that multiple grafting is completed, and through such dynamic and varying means it is brought to the point at which it all started, at this level: the tree which the Lord planted (cf. Isaiah 62:1ff.).
Here at last the proud formalism into which Israel the nation was inclined to fall (as in Isaiah 1) comes to the point of Isaiah 66, where the very format or formula or form in which the Old Covenant was expressed is daringly used by Isaiah, to show the two points.
What two points are these in Isaiah ? First, it is indeed the revelation of Jehovah which is fulfilled, without change; and secondly, it is the New Covenant amplitude to which it comes, so that only artificially now is the distinction made. Old form symbols are even used of the New in a way impossible to miss in Isaiah 66, in a deliberate provocation to subdue insularity and emphasise the ultimate meaning to which mere symbol once pointed.
The same sense of oneness of Old and New in the consummation of the New is made, with the same sense of the integrity of the tree, that final accomplishment of the 'Israel' of God, into which all, those of the land and the race, and those of the Lord who Himself is the Israel who obeys and saves, are poured.
As you see in Genesis 32, the very name 'Israel' derives from Jacob wrestling with God and prevailing, finding commission in contention that does not rest until in profound spiritual submission it finds its assignment. Thus and in those terms did the name arise, explicated by God who gave it.
So did Christ as in Hebrews 5:7, with great cries and seekings, prevail spiritually in His commission as Saviour, celestial and eternal though He was and is (cf. John 8:58, 3:13); for He had first to overcome horror of sin as that to be imbibed vicariously, its guilt; and He prevailed in prayer in princely power, by that submission into the aweful privilege of paying for salvation, and securing it for man, as many as received Him (John 1:12). This precious cargo was His profound accomplishment, to carry it out of sin into salvation, and to secure it in this realm.
How COULD man be forgiven, in that he had sinned (as in fact had Jacob)! It was only through the promised Messiah (Genesis 12:3).
How COULD Christ avail to save any among mankind, all of them, all races ? It was only because He WAS (and is) the Messiah, the sin-bearer, who through much humiliation, perseverance and power, purity and self-control, obedience and love, could and DID prevail, becoming a fitting substitute for all who believed, on the Cross, so cancelling sin and prevailing as a prince in bringing many children to salvation (cf. Hebrews 2, Isaiah 9:7). Thus did type yield to antitype, and thus does failed type yield to triumphant antitype, and man to God.
So did Christ, divinely sent from celestial eternity (Isaiah 48:16) prevail with God and with man, like the Jacob (Genesis 32:38), who thus was in this, a type of Christ. As in Genesis 12, the blessing through this very seed is for all mankind, with special application to Israel at a lesser level, in terms of land (Genesis 17), yet in an august role, as the terrestrial carrier for the Christ, and the word of God till He came, though they failed in much, and were divinely deemed worthless in themselves for all their work (Isaiah 30:8-17). Yet God, who in nothing fails, availed to take from this carrier, the way He wanted and to prevail amidst utter disaster in the people, with His glorious prupose.
So did He achieve through failing means, in glorious wisdom, His chosen and various appointments to come.
Nevertheless, the very land and the very capital, Jerusalem, where this same Jesus Christ was crucified, is to be an exemplar and centre through which the God of grace and glory will show the crucifying world, its flags now furled, the celestial wonder of divine rule over all (cf. Micah 4). The very site for the attempt at deicide becomes thus the centre of government in GOD'S own name: it is, after all, the Lord who died, not man, not a race. It is God who rules, and all those who as in Romans 11, have failed at the first, are in Christ, given place at the last, so that none should glory except in the Lord (Isaiah 2). It is alas the inveterate tendency of man, this race or that, this empire or that, this idea or that, to seek glory for himself, which whether in Israel or the Gentiles, is no glory but vainglory.
It is ONLY HE who obeyed and saved; it is FROM HIM, the Prince of God as the name 'Israel' essentially is, as explained by the one with whom Jacob wrestled, and as He is depicted to be in the Messianic Isaiah 49, in verse, 3, that all take the final name and unite free from guilt and guile, in the simplicity of One Saviour.
How greatly the Lord stressed in the transition from Isaiah 41 to 42, that there was no one who could act but the Lord Himself, for they had all failed; and just the same is found as Isaiah 51:18ff. moves on to Isaiah 52 where the only one of the entire race, Israel having failed and none prevailing, left to act was the Messiah: He being incarnate from heaven, He who alone could save, DOES SO. And what it cost Him! (Isaiah 52:13-15).
Here is the 'Israel' who in Isaiah 49:3 is named, is designated, is accorded power and is to prevail, as His further work for Jew and Gentile alike is specifically traced; and He BEING the salvation which only sinlessness can provide, and BEING the covenant (Isaiah 42:6) in Himself, is the One who satisfies. Yes, it is He who satisfied God, who as God has comes to fulfil the divine for the human (Isaiah 42:1-2, 48:16). Who among men could do it, do we repeatedly find ? NONE! Who from heaven, sinless, pure, chosen, choice, not in Himself deriving from man but sent as God from God (Isaiah 48:16). It is He, the Christ who so prevails. What is the glory to man ? It is the same as the availability FROM man! Zero. The Lord ALONE will be exalted in that day as Isaiah 2 differentially declared.
Thus what is found in Isaiah 57 ? It is this divine assessment (NASV).
"But you, draw near,
you sons of a sorceress,
adulterous, wanton race!
Of whom do you make sport,
at whom do you open wide your mouth,
and put out your tongue?
"Are you not rebellious children,
a worthless race;
"You who are in heat among the terebinths,
under every green tree;
You who immolate children in the wadies,
behind the crevices in the cliffs?
Among the smooth stones of the wadi is your portion,
these are your lot;
To these you poured out libations,
and brought offerings.
Should I decide not to punish these things?
"Upon a high and lofty mountain
you made your bed,
and there you went up to offer sacrifice.
Behind the door and the doorpost
you placed your indecent symbol.
Deserting me, you spread out
your high, wide bed;
And of those whose embraces you love
you carved the symbol and gazed upon it."
But what does Isaiah 30 declare ? It is this.
"Now go, write it before them on a tablet,
And note it on a scroll,
That it may be for time to come,
Forever and ever:
That this is a rebellious people,
Children who will not hear the law of the Lord;
Who say to the seers, 'Do not see,'
And to the prophets, 'Do not prophesy to us right things;
Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits.
Get out of the way,
Turn aside from the path,
Cause the Holy One of Israel
To cease from before us.'
"Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel:
'Because you despise this word,
And trust in oppression and perversity,
And rely on them,
Therefore this iniquity shall be to you
Like a breach ready to fall,
A bulge in a high wall,
Whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant.
And He shall break it like the breaking of the potter’s vessel,
Which is broken in pieces;
He shall not spare.
So there shall not be found among its fragments
A shard to take fire from the hearth,
Or to take water from the cistern.' "
What God in lovingkindness and compassion, declares and confers, this is one thing; but what the Lord does with self-exaltation and mixing of drinks of man's sin and divine purity, this is another. Then the flush is soon to fail, and the presumption brought low!
It is in this matter as in Isaiah 41-42, 52-53, a disjunction from all human contribution in deliverance, all human credibility for pursuing creation to salvation.
So here in Isaiah 49:3, by contrast contradistinct, by disjunction dynamic, here is the Messiah, "an Israel in whom I will be glorified", the servant who is servant indeed who will obtain a "just reward" (49:4), whose "work is with God." It is the one whom man despises (as in Isaiah 53), but in whom, as distinct from all of Israel the nation, God delights (Isaiah 41-42) who is here to be found, and it is on this ground that the Lord builds His Church, coming first from here, then from there, till at last it is completely one (49:6, 66).
Here, in this "an Israel in whom I will be glorified" of 49:3, is the answer. Here indeed is the only answer, so that only the Lord will be glorified, His stated intent (Isaiah 2), assessment and declaration.
Here is the ultimate elect! worthy, effectual and infinitely far from worthless: as Isaiah shows. It is the elected member of the deity who avails, prevails, is the prince and has power.
Indeed, for the third occasion, this time through Isaiah 48 to 49, Isaiah makes the appalling but wonderful contrast. Even in Isaiah 48, you have one of the most poignant and saddening passages in the Bible, where God laments for the failure of Israel the nation to act and find the vastly desired blessing which the Lord had for them (48:17ff.); and it is once more from this negation that the positive proceeds in the following chapter, here Isaiah 49.
It in this sequel, Isaiah 49, that God exposes the Israel who does not fail, the one in whom He will indeed be glorified, saving both Jew and Gentile by His action. Who is He ? It is He who was as One abhorred by the nation (49:7). It is indeed HE who is in Himself given as a covenant (49:6), constituting it (cf. Matthew 26:28), as also the salvation (49:6), always personal, IN HIMSELF.
Here is the salvation from sin, here is the sinless, here is the pure, here is the performance producer, here is the apt one, the reliable, the meek, the honourable, having salvation (as in Zechariah 9:7): HERE and NOWHERE ELSE.
It is as in Isaiah 41:
"I looked, and there was no man;
I looked among them, but there as no counsellor,
who, when I asked of them,
could answer a word.
Indeed, they are all worthless, their works are nothing ..."
He whose beard was in part rooted out (Isaiah 50), who did not hide His face from shame and spitting, it is He who is the final and ultimate, the effectual and the glorious Israel, of whom Jacob was but typed in illustration of what was to come.
That fact by no means submerges the individuality of Israel the nation; but it assuredly removes any pride in it (cf. Isaiah 19:24-25); and it shows conclusively how vast is the final perspective in which the nation or the nations, one or the other, will be brought to the true Israel, who saves all who come from both segments, and in Himself constitutes the standing of any and all.
It in this extended sense that Paul moves on in Romans 11 to show the completeness both of the Gentile 'time' and the Jewish sudden accrual. So by Romans 11:28 BOTH are fulfilled as the apostle moves in his theme.
Thus, just as surely as the "ALL" in Romans 11:28 MUST be from Israel the nation, so does it flow on to the entire body of which that triumphant 'Israel', called Jesus Christ, is Head, in the context; and from Him it all takes its name. It is His life which flows to all, and here was the ONLY ONE, Jew or Gentile, worthy in the end, of the name 'Israel'. His whole body is now complete. It arrived in phases, but no more is it segmentalised. It is one, that of the Israel of God. In Him, now, nothing lacks, in this panorama of phases.
It is in HIS body, one body, that of the triumphant Israel of God, that all now find their constitution, and exist.
Be ashamed, the Lord said to Israel the nation as in Ezekiel 36:22, as they returned physically to their land, in the prophecy. It is not for your sake! He exclaims that I do this. It is for His name's sake. And it is in THAT name alone that any can glory. In Him, all is encompassed, and nothing lacks.
ALL have had their trials, each has had its place; but in the end, it is one new race, or 'one new man' as in Ephesians 2:14-22.
"For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one,
and has broken down the middle wall of separation,
having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is,
the law of commandments contained in ordinances,
so as to create in Himself
one new man from the two,
thus making peace,
and that He might reconcile them both to God
in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.
"And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
"Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners,
but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,
Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,
in whom the whole building, being joined together,
grows into a holy temple in the Lord,
in whom you also are being built together
for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."
That, it was FAITH through one man, through whose seed on the human side, the Messiah came, precisely as promised: faith which then rushed out to Gentiles and back to Israel the nation. Just as in fulfilment, a double one at the last as in Romans 11, the one party has come, the Gentile, so does the other, the Jew return in a final rush and flush, so that not ONLY all of the latter redeemed group, but this with all of the former, forms one gigantic new Israel, the Israel of God, in the body of the one Lord, to whom both come, this being the successive additive to the singular addition of Israel the national people at the end.
This neither obliterates the specifics of the former times, nor compromises the grandeur of the final integrity and integration about that 'Israel, in whom I will be glorified' of Isaiah 49:3 in marked contrast to the national one, in whom all reside.
DISSONANCE AND CLARITY
It is crucial that meaningless dissonance be avoided in discussing and biblically detailing important issues. This is one such case.
Thus re Israel the name, we have been attacked as if we did not realise that God would call His servants by another name (Isaiah 62:2, 65:13-15), though this has been vastly stressed on this site. Superficial reactions and intemperate speech do not aid comprehension.
'Messiah-ans' or in fact, 'Christians' (Acts 11:25) is that other name. This sort of antipathy and attack results most probably from a fierce desire on the part of such as the assailant to make this point, as if it were the be-all and end-all, that 'Israel is not the Church', though this very thing is often mistaught in routine amillenialism.
This is so, and in meeting the need, without relish, to show that this assault was factually wrong, and that this distinctive is true and just, in what has been decisively and repetitively declared on our site, we have had to correct false accusation. What is factually wrong cannot rebut; It can only be retracted. Without that, there is mere noise, without reason or righteousness.
In fact, as in so much in theology, and indeed in science, the truth is not simplistic, but deep and requiring discernment. The Bible provides the basis for this.
As shown above, Christ is the genuine, that is the true servant, as One who categoricallly and faithfully SERVES and does all, One who is both just and effective; and He is an Israel in whom God is well pleased as He declares in Isaiah 49:3, in sharp distinction to the national case, where there is divine repudiation of such a role of glory for the nation, in Isaiah 65:13-15, and as characterised in Isaiah 30:8ff.. God speaks of this 'Israel', this prevailing Person with God, as the One in fact prevailing (Isaiah 53), in sufferings not for His own sins, but for all who come from Jew or Gentile race to His New Covenant; and this He does in place of the covenantally rejected Israel (Zechariah 11), no more the spiritual designee.
We see this role traced in the Christ's own words in Ch. 9 of Deity and Design, Designation and Destiny, as marked.
Hence Christians are indeed designable as 'the Israel of God' (Galatians 6:16); yet they are this, not as if to replace the actual national, failed case (cf. Ezekiel 36:22), who are emphatically shown to be such even as God delivers them by restoring them to their land, according to the promise (cf. Galloping Events Ch. 4), which was in this unconditional, and has already been gloriously fulfilled.
But this extension of the meaning of the term 'Israel'
(an example of a frequent practice in language, as readily seen from the frequency
with which we find noted in Webster's Dictionary - 'by extension ...')
does naturally not obliterate the base from which it comes, one emphasised even in divorce, as the word of God impacts in its acrid repulse on the blighted folly of Israel's spiritual fall.
That is a spiritual matter, as Romans 11 makes exceedingly clear in the parable of the olive tree. The failed nation receives a pounding and resounding impact in Zechariah 11, Isaiah 30, 65. Nor does this usage obliterate the part of the covenant that was unconditional, as if failure to pass a test meant failure for the examiner to keep His word. It is kept for Israel, all too well! (cf. Deuteronomy 27-28); but in the end, very well, when as is always necessary with any and every race or person, repentance at last comes to that people (Zech. 12:10-13:1).
The land is already a fulfilled item in part, as are the wars of Zech. 12, in their amazing and overwhelming impact of divine power to help Israel against the arrogance power of potentially obliterative enemies. Iran recently has been trumpeting the cry for horror on itself, in rambunctious mouthings about Israel, as if the matter could possibly lie in its own hands. So do the mighty fall. Both Israel and the persecutory nations are under divine duress, and each has a portion of wrath reserved for unrepentant bluster and effort to eradicate Israel (Deuteronomy 32, with Isaiah 51:22-23, Jeremiah 50:11-13, Zephaniah 2:8-11, Ezekiel 38:1-16). It is not that Isaiah 54:17 applies, for it does not, this being for SERVANTS of the Lord whose RIGHTEOUSNESS is in HIM (contrary to Israel's case - cf. Romans 10:10-4); and not till the vast conversion in Israel does that have impact.
God, said John the Baptist, can raise up children of Abraham from these stones (Matthew 3:8-9), and Abraham, he did not such works as these of yours! cried the Christ. It is the devil, Christ indicated, who was father of much that was of Israel's hustle and bustle of that day! (John 8:37-47). God favours TRUTH, and not tradition, His word and not that of man!
While the ultimates are sure, the intimacies of history DO NOT protect Israel (except from extinction as a people), for the opposite is predicted at large, though the nations who wallow in her discipline can wallow also in their own as the above texts illustrate repeatedly.
When man fails, God acts. Results come as He chooses, sometimes in mercy deferred, but not ultimately deleted except in repentance, as II Chronicles 36 so well historically documents! But as to God, what HE says, goes. He never fails (cf. Habakkuk 3:6, Zephaniah 3:5).
Thus 'Israel' the nation (primary meaning and sustained meaning available) IS back by undeletable divine decree, as so often shown from the Bible and history on this site (cf. SMR Chs. 8-9, Appendix A). The restored and returned nation (in and since 1948) has had those incredible seeming victories which correlate so closely with its continued EXISTENCE as a nation, as prophetically prescribed. It is in vain for the UN to mouth words in view of its actions, as when it withdrew its forces as Nasser sought to invade Israel! Israel has no other final preserver but God, who uses what He will, and acts alone as He chooses.
As to that, He makes it explicit that this is not the result of their merit but of His message, word and purpose (cf. Deuteronomy 7:7, Ezekiel 36:22). Other friends pass, but this overwhelming, divine love does not flinch, even when many as in the case of the Exodus, at last perish (Jeremiah 31:3): "I have loved you with an everlasting love." Even the US is busy trying to wedge from Israel, a little more, a little more for the lions of avarice that surround Israel, and three allies that it has in this, the Madrid Quartet, ask for divine redress, to deliver their quarry, Israel, and to discipline them. One is to hope that this perilous seizure plot will dissipate before many are hurt, as indeed the USA has already been hurt as was foreseen in one of the earlier chapters in this site!
It, this nation, will be rescued. These contexts, unlike the spiritual, are demonstrably unconditional, just as the spiritual side is broken and has rescue ONLY IN CHRIST, as is the case for any and all! (cf. Colossians 1:19ff., where God would have ALL reconciled by the blood of the Cross, yes, whether in heaven or on earth!). It is THIS which has 'pleased' Him! Only the events of Zechariah 12:10 -13:1 will heal that side.
Again, God does not abdicate (cf. Acme, Alpha and Omega: Jesus Christ Ch. 8), suspend the Gospel or break His word (Hebrews 8 makes it quite clear that the Old Covenant is growing obsolete, as the entire book is set to warn waverers from lusting for the Old when the new and eternal redemption is now in place - cf. Hebrews 8:13). That Old and symbolic relationship is ready to vanish away, says the Bible, not to be resuscitated (cf. Ephesians 1:10)! Insult to the Saviour's work is not part of the plan, whether this be the failure of sect, as in Seventh Day Adventist positioning of the Lord's day, or that of any other part or party.
There is therefore the plain case of seeing Old Testament figures and meaning, with reference to all spiritual meaning and divine work in the New Testament. It is what the New and final Covenant meant and this alone which can now appear, where the terminology of the Old Covenant with Israel is employed in or for the New Testament era (which does not end - Ephesians 1:10, Daniel 7:14,25-27, Hebrews 7-10).
Spiritual invocation of the Old Covenant symbolism here is moving into the area of the obsolete, vanishing away as Hebrews declares. Indeed, here clinging to it is categorically and rigorously condemned in this epistle. It is necessary to build on this (cf. I Corinthians 3:10-11), and not rehire and re-wire the Old. Symbolic preparation are not part of Christian consummation, but the use of this now would offer Christ summary affront (Isaiah 66:2-3). Efforts to imagine Zechariah 14 is to be used not as to its SIGNIFICATION but as in symbols, therefore are mere running with the ball to the wrong end of the field. ALL will be brought out FOR all, but IN all and towards all, there is nothing in which to glory, but God, no attainment, and nothing to rest on, for the liabilities are absorbed by the Lion of Judah, and as to Him, they rejected Him, as did all the world in its sins.
Just as baptism absorbs circumcision (Colossians 2:11-12 cf. Questions and Answers 11, News 51, The Desire of the Nations ... Ch. 4, What is the Wheat to the Chaff Ch. 1), so are there symbolic wares absorbed into Christ's finished work (Hebrews 9:12-28, 10:10-14), once for all: to which any addition, and from which any variation is mere malpractice, insult to the Saviour, ignorant assault as if to add to Calvary's woes!
But that is past and so is the relevance of such retro-mutative mal-interpretation of the cardinal realities required by the express statements of the word of God.
Stephen was not really attacking the Temple, but showing that Christ had superseded it, fulfilled it. He died for the difference.
We must live for it.
No one, but NO ONE, not even Israel which must be far from preening itself from future glory in view of the strictures of the word of God just noted (as in Isaiah 2, 65, 30, for example) is to be received except by that same NEW NAME which from Christ on is the only valid one for knowing God (Galatians 6:14, Acts 4:11-12, Ephesians 1:10). There is NO separation in this glory of Christ, when NO FLESH shall glory (Isaiah 2). How ludicrous to think that it could!
We do not falsify Hebrews in order to indulge an illicit dream, whether for Jew or Gentile. All is Christ as Head of the new race of Messiah-ans, the only acceptable , spiritual body before God; and any desiring as individual or nation to be at this or that hand, is merely wasting self-glorifying effort! (cf. Matthew 20:23). Indeed, the illicit request of the disciples was met with a GENERIC teaching about all such issues, culminating in Matthew 20:28 and its glorious focus on the Lord, and the status and DESIRE of His spiritual followers, one and all.
It is God Himself who will bring glory to Jerusalem, which not incidentally, but fundamentally is still the city of His crucifixion, who redeemed by His blood, this the fame of the name par excellence, of the city!
Whatever place Jews may have in the city in the millenium, it is assuredly not one of glory! (Isaiah 2:10-11,17-22). It is the glory of the LORD which will be seen upon that Jerusalem which is from above (Isaiah 60), whose very walls are salvation, ‘the mother of us all’ (Galatians 4:26).
For all that, God is quite clear that in the preliminary conflicts, Israel the nation, as yet as a nation unbelieving, will be delivered by divine power, and God will vindicate His long written word and eternal name in doing so (Ezekiel 36:22,35-36, 39:23,27-29). Indeed, since this is surely coming to pass, and exhibits what is to be felt, let us cite these verses, as the return of Israel culminates and the final affronts to here sovereignty emanate from the hatred and lust of the nations.
"Therefore say to the house of Israel,
"Thus says the Lord God:
'I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel,
but for My holy name’s sake,
which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went.
And I will sanctify My great name,
which has been profaned among the nations,
which you have profaned in their midst;
and the nations shall know that I am the Lord," says the Lord God,
"when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.
'For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land.
'Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean;
I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you;
I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes,
and you will keep My judgments and do them.
'Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers;
you shall be My people,
and I will be your God.
'I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses.
I will call for the grain and multiply it, and bring no famine upon you.
And I will multiply the fruit of your trees and the increase of your fields,
so that you need never again bear the reproach of famine among the nations.
'Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good;
and you will loathe yourselves in your own sight,
for your iniquities and your abominations.
'Not for your sake do I do this,' says the Lord God, 'let it be known to you.
Be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel!' "
It is to be observed how acutely untrue it is to have ANY idea of an exaltation of Israel (as so clearly denied in Isaiah 19:22-25, as in Isaiah 2 for all). To be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, has rather a negative touch for pride and position, priority and a swelling heart. It is IN THE LORD alone men shall glory. That is a great part of the entire result of the parade called history!
They will grow up,
not into a self-satisfied cynicism or savvy, sophisticates of attainment,
or grunting mutineers of their own making, glorying in their own works, ways or wisdom,
but into Christ (Ephesians 4:15-16).
The prophecy continues:
" Thus says the Lord God:
'On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will also enable you to dwell in the cities, and the ruins shall be rebuilt. The desolate land shall be tilled
instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass by.
'So they will say, "This land that was desolate has become like the garden of Eden; and the wasted, desolate, and ruined cities are now fortified and inhabited."
'Then the nations which are left all around you shall know that I, the Lord,
have rebuilt the ruined places and planted what was desolate.
'I, the Lord, have spoken it, and I will do it.' "
This, in turn, does not mean that He may not do it...
As to Ezekiel 39, we have this résumé in advance.
"I will set My glory among the nations;
all the nations shall see My judgment which I have executed,
and My hand which I have laid on them.
"So the house of Israel shall know
that I am the Lord their God from that day forward.
The Gentiles shall know
that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity;
because they were unfaithful to Me, therefore I hid My face from them.
"I gave them into the hand of their enemies, and they all fell by the sword.
According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions
I have dealt with them, and hidden My face from them."
"Therefore thus says the Lord God:
‘Now I will bring back the captives of Jacob,
and have mercy on the whole house of Israel; and I will be jealous for My holy name - after they have borne their shame, and all their unfaithfulness
in which they were unfaithful to Me,
when they dwelt safely in their own land and no one made them afraid.
'When I have brought them back from the peoples
and gathered them out of their enemies’ lands,
and I am hallowed in them in the sight of many nations,
then they shall know
that I am the Lord their God, who sent them into captivity among the nations,
but also brought them back to their land, and left none of them captive any longer.
'And I will not hide My face from them anymore; for I shall have poured out My Spirit on the house of Israel,’ says the Lord God.' "
This last verse, with the purging in Ezekiel 26, is analogous to Zechariah 12:10-13:1. Moreover, one can discern not only that Israel will be surrendering itself to the Lord, to receive bounty from Him and give Him the praise which is ultimate and absolute which is His sole due, but will KNOW that the entire in, then out and then at last back episode, coaster ride, has this so very simple and ultimate meaning! As to the nations, they will realise that it was no lack of power in the once powerful Israel, or strange power in the newly returned citizens, the one for long and the other for a short time, which was the point at issue: it was their NOT waiting on God, their recall from mission and devastation because of it, and the mercy of the Lord in bringing them back ultimately first to their land (as in Ezekiel 37's account), and THEN to Himself!
Israel, loved with an everlasting love, received, rejected, faithfully brought back according to promise (cf. Micah 7) to Abraham, as that prophet shows in his vast paean of mercy at the end of this Micah 7, finally delivered with rejection to the overseers who try to replace the plan of God with that of man, at last released from self-will and self-reliance, from maverick religion (cf. Deuteronomy 32:15-22), abased in its divine discipline by the nations will be restored in mercy, its place sustained and its sufferings consummated not in itself, but in the Lord.
It is He alone who for any and for all, bears the sin which breaks the rod and realises the regality of the Lord in the midst of any people or person. Already they are back against all human estimates of possibility, their bark floating in the gale of hatred and incendiary loathing from those following their own constructions and imaginations in religion without reason, verification or truth; and as in Ezekiel 37, the next step is the vast movement of conversion to come (cf. It Bubbles ... Ch. 10, The Biblical Workman Ch. 3, *1a).
Step by step from the divine calendar proceeds to be taken, the restoration, the miraculous wars, the forests and the gardens (Isaiah 55:12-13, Isaiah 35) as the finale approaches; the menaces of those who seek to intervene (Zechariah 12:1-4), till that consummation in Christ as foretold brings back the straying nation, now to the Messiah it had abandoned, received at last with deep regret and marvellous joy, the former for the past, the latter for the endless wonder of eternal life (Isaiah 51:11). Whatever man can throw at it, will bounce back with devastation (Ezekiel 38-39), and the plan shown millenia ago in Romans 11 will be completed as now it soars into sight, at the site, awaiting inward sight to those who must first see!
No more will comparative religious studies utter absurd inanities, unsuitable for babes, about different religions, as if ANY but the word of the living God in the Bible and in the Lord, and attested through the Jews variously, were empirically tested and found correct. The simple facts of divine usage of Israel, their rebellion and His exposure, and then His mercy and their restoration in the face of all 'odds', before at last as a nation in large measure returning to the Christ, He who is for ALL, who pardons them, though that nation crucified them (with able help from Rome which has its own end - Revelation 18-19). Indeed, for a broad perspective on Israel, the nations and the glory of God in modern terms, see The Pitter-Patter ... Ch. 9, with emphasis on *1A, in conjunction with Lord of Life Ch. 3.
Galatians 3:24 is the final result as in the paean of praise TO GOD in Romans 11:27ff... It is, then, and not something childishly simple which is found in the word of God on this topic. Nevertheless, the divine perspective revealed in the Bible is perfectly plain and beautifully harmonious, both with itself, with history, with the glory of God and the ignominy of whatever exalts or would exalt itself above God, be it Israel or its persecutors.
Calvin's error here is profound, just as his excellent contribution is in much else, no less at the positive level. Here is the warning verified in its wisdom: that not to disobey I Corinthians 3, which refuses the liberty to the Christian, to name his system after this or that person. Calvin's famed 'decretum horribile' which is the horrible decree as he deemed it (though in fact, NOTHING is horrible about God) was based on the presupposition that God in some mysterious way had a short of short-circuit, one might put it, a lack of that actual lustre of love which went so far as to have saving INTEREST in those to be lost.
What a miserable decree Calvin here invents. God would have all, repeatedly says so, and any man's failure to realise the restraint which is inherent in love, and imagination that where love does not force, or co-opt, or pre-empt, or get, it is a frustration, is no adornment to understanding. Love by nature is willing to take, or to leave. It is not a matter of power; that is irrelevant in love. It is relevant only IN the confines of love, where it provides; but to GET the love, it is not pertinent.
Where God therefore excludes, it is on the basis which He Himself states, a divinely discerned and understood preference for darkness in the face of light. This is given more attention in the text above, following this note.
See Predestination and Freewill, Section 3.
See The Biblical Workman, Ch. 8.
See the Hexad, On Predestination and Foreknowledge, Liberty and Necessity, Responsibility, Duty and Creativity.
See for example Marvels of Predestination and the Ways of Will Ch. 2.